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Chapter 1: Introducing Crime Scene Examination

Remember what we said about Learning Outcomes on the page you've just read? Well, here are a few to get you started. After reading this information, you should be able to:

  • Give the modern meaning for the phrase forensic science

  • Explain the meaning of SOCO and CSM

  • State the crime scene examiner's "mantra"

  • State what it means to "think forensic"

The examination of a crime scene is all about the collection of physical evidence in a manner that preserves the evidence in the condition in which it was found. It does not matter whether the evidence is a bulky item such as a weapon, a trace material such as a hair, a biological sample such as a blood smear, or even the body of a deceased person, the aim is always to protect and preserve the evidence for recovery so that it can be forensically examined at some later time.

In many cases the evidence is at first not visible to the naked eye and such evidence, whether an invisible (latent) fingerpint or footwear mark or other mark must first be "treated" with substances to make it visible so that it can be recovered; it is especially important that this type of evidence is not damaged in attempts to make it visible for recovery.

It is important to recognise that the CSI is not asked to answer the question whodunnit? They are not asked to say whether an accused person was the person who committed the crime [but see The 5 Ws]. That is the job of the counsel for the prosecution if and when the case goes to court.  The role of the CSI is to collect evidence, and to do so in a manner which maximises its recovery at the scene of crime.

To ensure that the recovery of evidence is maximised, the CSI must not only process the crime scene in a systematic and orderly way, they must also recover evidence carefully, package every item in such a way that it will not be damaged or affected by transport away from the scene and in storage, individually label every item so that each is uniquely identifiable, and accurately record every aspect of the examination. There is only ONE opportunity to collect the evidence, and it must be done properly and completely, first time. There is usually no second chance, and when the evidence has gone, it's gone. For good.

In the pages of this chapter, we will take a walk through the process of carrying out the examination of a crime scene. Decisions about the precise way in which the examination should be carried out, and who to involve in the investigation will depend in part on the type of crime - whether it is volume crime or a major (or serious) crime. However, there are some common principles that apply no matter what type of crime scene is being examined, and it is these common principles which you will come to understand as you work through the material that follows.

But before we get to the really interesting stuff, let's just spend a moment looking at the Contents to Chapter 1, and all of the Learning Outcomes. And then we'll take a walk through the process of examining a crime scene.


We want you to be able to "think forensic." What this means is that when you gather evidence, you should take your time thinking carefully about what the evidence might mean. Don't jump to quick conclusions. And when you think you have the right answer, ask yourself "could I be wrong?" This approach will mean that you will avoid helping put the wrong person behind bars!


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